Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism’

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee

Image via Wikipedia

After a Bible study about one of Jesus’ sea crossings, one of our members asked for a sermon about “the other side.”  This is what I came up with for our congregation’s homecoming service on September 25.  This sermon focuses on the call to go.  Something needing ongoing prayerful thought and creativity: what are some alternate routes to reach the other side?

A Rough Ride to the Other Side
A Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33, Matthew 8:23-9:1 and Romans 10: 12-15

When Jesus insisted that his disciples get in the boat and head for the other side, they didn’t put up any argument.  They knew where he was coming from.  They knew the need that waited on the other side.  They didn’t know exactly what they would find, but it would be some form of what they had seen already: perhaps another hungry crowd like the one they had just left.  Definitely they would see lots of sick people, and they might even see a really fearful situation like what they had seen in Gerasa: demon-possessed people living in the place of the dead—the cemetery.

The disciples also didn’t argue about setting out because Jesus had sent them out before with a commission.  In Matthew 10 he told them:
• Go and proclaim the good news
• Cure the sick
• Raise the dead
• Cleanse the lepers
• Cast out demons.

They could hear the urgency in Jesus’ voice, the same urgency that Paul expressed later in this way: How can people call on Jesus if they haven’t put their trust in him?  And how can they put their trust in him if they haven’t heard of him?  And how can they hear unless somebody goes and tells them?

No, the disciples didn’t put up an argument.

But deep in the night, far from the shore, I am sure they wished they had.  Because of the topography at the Sea of Galilee, windstorms can quickly come up with little or no warning.  It happens because the Sea itself is down in a bottom, 700 feet below sea level, while the hills around the sea soar up to 1200 feet above sea level.  Air cools off quickly at the top and rushes down to take the place of warmer air rising up off the sea.  The disciples didn’t have a barometer to detect the subtle changes in air pressure that might have warned them that a storm was forming.

They were hit without warning, and this was a bad one.  Even the most seasoned sailors among them didn’t have the stomach for this churning sea.  In the Greek Matthew says that the waves tortured the boat.

And being just as human as anyone else, the disciples probably “lost it” as they struggled to hang on.  I can imagine them shouting at each other over the noise of the storm.  We should have rested in port when the crowd dispersed!  Andrew, James and John, you’re the professionals in this bunch.  How come you didn’t notice that the wind was changing?  Peter, how come you didn’t speak up?  I knew I didn’t like the looks of those clouds I saw on the horizon!  But the wind carried their voices away. (more…)

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Image by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

Summer Grove United Methodist Church recently posted a video inviting people to give church a try–or give it another try.  It says what I’d like to say about my home church.  Take a look and share it around!


Click here!

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There are times when a congregation needs to make a major move.  This year my home congregation, the Kirk O’Cliff Presbyterian Church, is celebrating the centennial of a major move.  When the church was founded in 1876, the Kirk’s building was literally perched on a cliff in Spotsylvania County, Virginia—hence the name.  By the dawn of the twentieth century, however, the church members had migrated away from the community in the neighborhood of the building.  It would still be years before cars made travel easier.  And since the people of the Kirk still depended on horses and buggies and their own feet to get to church, they had a problem. 

What did they do?  The congregation decided to move the building closer to where they actually lived.  In 1911 new land was given, and they went to work.  They dismantled the church building piece by piece, loaded it onto horse-drawn wagons, moved it to its present location and reassembled it.  With the exception of some bricks and a few boards, every piece survived intact.  The congregation more than survived.  Today the church is still called Kirk O’Cliff even though the cliff is ten miles away and covered by the waters of Lake Anna.  As I think about the passion, the commitment, and the sheer sweat that dismantling, moving, and rebuilding required, I marvel.

When it comes to the church and our congregations in 2011, I wonder what God is planning to “dismantle,” “move,” and “assemble” in a new way now.  People who need the embrace of Jesus have moved out of range of the church, so some kind of move is necessary.  It is going to require prayerful passion, prayerful commitment and prayerful sweat.  The parable of the bridesmaids in Matthew 25 reminds us to keep oil in our lamps in order to be ready when the Lord comes and calls.  Maybe we had better keep our wagon wheels greased and ready to roll, too.

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Jesus' calling card

Image by jayfreshuk via Flickr

Thank heavens there’s no aptitude test you have to pass before you can follow Jesus.  You simply start where you are and invite others to do the same.  Here’s a sermon for Epiphany 3A.

A Sermon on John 1:29-51
With Allusions to Isaiah 42:1-4 and Acts 17:16-34

Time is going by so quickly that it’s not going to be long before some more of our youth will be going off to college.  The admissions process will include taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test—the SAT–and Achievement Tests, submitting transcripts of their grades and recommendations from their teachers, and filling out applications with questions like the following: “Discuss some issue of personal, local, national or international concern and its importance to you,” and “Why this college?”  Do this in less than one page.

Getting into the college of one’s choice is often a great concern.  “Are my grades good enough?” students wonder.  Some take special classes to help them do better on the SAT, and it is not unusual for people to retake the SAT several times hoping to improve their score.

Imagine if Jesus had given his prospective students an entrance exam.  Today’s gospel lesson might read like this: Andrew, what does baptism mean?  Peter, explain the term, “Lamb of God.”  Philip and Nathanael, demonstrate your knowledge of Scripture—the law, the prophets and the writings.  Bring me references from John the Baptist, the leader of your local synagogue or other teacher.  Tell me what you can offer this company of disciples.  I want evidence of loyalty and strength.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order has a section that describes what mature Christian discipleship looks like.  It’s quite a long list and here is some of what it includes: proclaiming good news, taking part in the common life and worship of the church, praying and studying scripture, responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others, working in the world for peace, justice, freedom and human fulfillment.  That’s just some of the list.

Imagine if a congregation turned that into an entrance exam that you have to ace before you can profess your faith, become a disciple, and join the church!  Who could get in?  Who could ace such a test even after many years of working at it? (more…)

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